Discussions on all aspects of the The United Kingdom & its Empire and Commonwealth during the Inter-War era and Second World War. Hosted by Andy H
- Forum Staff
- Posts: 15112
- Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:51
- Location: UK and USA
From last weeks Daily Telegraph
Major Johnny Langdon
Major Johnny Langdon, who has died aged 81, won an immediate MC for his audacious actions during the latter stages of the breakout from the Normandy bridgehead in 1944.
On August 21, Langdon, then a lieutenant commanding a troop of the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, was leading an attack on the small town of Gace. German forces armed with anti-tank guns and bazookas held the town and were hampering progress.
When Langdon reached the outskirts of Gace, he was engaged by heavy fire from a self-propelled 75 mm gun which narrowly missed him. He knocked out an armoured vehicle - which was evidently being used as an ammunition carrier, as it exploded as he was passing it. The vehicle slewed across the narrow, steep-sided lane, preventing the other members of Langdon's troop from joining him.
Finding himself on the enemy side of the obstruction, unsupported and on an exposed stretch of road subjected to machine-gun fire, Langdon directed his tank forward to what he thought was the comparative safety of some buildings. Suddenly, there were several deafening explosions, the loudest of which rocked the tank.
"Bale out!" Langdon shouted to his crew, but no sooner had they reached the cover of the buildings than he realised the enemy had been using high explosive rather than armour-piercing rounds and that the tank was virtually undamaged. "Back in!" he ordered, and directed the driver to advance at full speed to the far side of the town. A German staff car came round a corner but a burst of machine-gun fire put it out of action and the driver and passenger, who were both unhurt, were taken prisoner. Langdon then took up a position which prevented the whole garrison from escaping and enemy reinforcements from coming to their support.
His quick thinking and decisive action, resulting in the eventual clearing of the town without casualties or damage to buildings and the taking of 190 prisoners, were recognised by the award of an immediate MC.
John Frederick Langdon was born on July 16 1921 and educated at Exeter School, where he was in the first XV for rugby and the first XI for both cricket and hockey. He later played rugby for his regiment - and for Aldershot Services, Clifton RFC, BAOR and the Army - and cricket and hockey at regimental level.
In June 1940, Langdon enlisted in the Buffs and he was commissioned in August 1941 at a time when his battalion was being converted from infantry to an armoured regiment. He was posted to the Middle East as a reinforcement officer and joined the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, with whom he remained when they returned to England to join 11th Armoured Division for the invasion of Europe.
He landed in Normandy on June 15 1944 and took part in the assault on Hill 112 in Operation Epsom, and in the great armoured offensive outside Caen in Operation Goodwood, in which his tank was the only one to reach the top of the vital, enemy-held ridge on the first day.
There followed the difficult operations in the bocage and the famous night march to Amiens, in which Langdon's was the leading tank when the city was reached after driving in darkness and pouring rain through 20 miles of enemy territory.
Shortly after the capture of Antwerp, Langdon organised a rugby match at Westerbeek, a small village in south-east Holland. The battalion kit and a ball were found and scaffold poles from a farmhouse nearby served as goal posts. The forward German positions were little more than two miles away, but fortunately no stray artillery shells interrupted the game.
After a brief involvement in the Ardennes and the protracted fighting through northern Germany, Langdon finished the war in Schleswig Holstein. In addition to the award of an MC, he was mentioned in dispatches.
After the war, Langdon instructed at Mons Officer Cadet School and was adjutant of the 44th Royal Tank Regiment TA, before being posted to Korea with the 5th Royal Tank Regiment. In 1955 he moved to Malaya, where he was seconded to the Special Branch of the Royal Malayan Police.
Langdon's enthusiasm and sporting ability found their perfect match in his final appointment as a company commander in the All Arms Junior Leaders Regiment. He left the Army in 1960 and joined Schweppes, working in the West Country for 20 years. A keen golfer, he was a member of the Mendip Golf Club for 33 years.
In retirement, Langdon lived in a village in north Somerset. He retained a great zest for life, and everything that he undertook was carried through with immense enthusiasm. He had a head of black hair until well into his eighties, and a remarkable memory for facts, faces and places.
Johnny Langdon married, in 1948, Rosemary Daniels, who survives him, together with their two daughters
- Posts: 1136
- Joined: 01 Aug 2003 13:29
- Location: Radovljica/Ljubljana, Slovenia